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Here are my favorite resources to grow your blog. I pay for premium tools because they save me time, money, or stress, but if you’re on a tight budget, I’ve got the perfect thing for you. Download my list of Blogging on a Budget Tools to find cheaper alternatives to some of the tools I list below.
There are tons of cheap options for web hosting, but I’ve learned the hard way that you get what you pay for.
I’ve upgraded my hosting to WPEngine because the company automatically takes care of the nuisance tasks that I never made time for with my previous blog. They automatically add security measures to your website, so you never need to worry about hacking. Their proprietary caching and CDN systems keep your site running super fast, which is important for retaining visitors and ranking in search engines.
And finally, they automatically back-up your site daily. Plus, any time you’re about to update a plug-in or theme, WPEngine reminds you to back-up your website again, just in case. This has been so helpful for me after plug-in updates have ruined some feature on my blog. I can just restore an older back-up and get my site back to normal.
I hate to spend money, but when I invest, I want to invest in the best. With WPEngine, you get what you pay for: peace of mind and automation of some of the most essential, but annoying, back-end tasks.
Domain Name and Professional Email Address
I pay for my URL and professional email address/ inbox through Hover.
It was really easy to set up my professional inbox and add my domain to my hosting company (see above). I’m so un-tech savvy that I don’t even know what this process is called, but the folks at Hover and WPEngine walked me through it (for free)!
Paying for a premium theme is important because it allows you customize your website and create a professional look.
Before hiring a professional designer, I used the Divi theme from Elegant Themes, and it’s perfect for people (like me) who don’t know much about coding or web design.
A subscription to Elegant Themes gives you access to 87 themes, so you have a ton of flexibility and can try out different themes all for the price of one..
But what I really love about Elegant Themes is the flexibility and ease of use. You’ll save time and reduce decision fatigue by using one of their dozens of pre-made layouts to help you quickly set up a beautiful homepage, portfolio, landing page, or about page. As for flexibility, Elegant Themes are designed to grow with you and your business. In the early days you can play around with the 87 themes. As you advance, video tutorials will help you learn how to customize EVERYTHING and create gorgeous, branded pages to meet every business need.
If you’re serious about turning your blog into a business, then you need ConvertKit.
ConvertKit is really an all-in-one service that is designed to help you grow your email list. It offers 4 landing page templates, 16 variations of opt-in forms, and tons of easy-to-use email features.
You can send simple broadcast emails to your whole list, auto-deliver freebies to new subscribers, auto-send a welcome series or free ecourse, and segment subscribers based on their behavior. For more info, come check out my video walk-through of ConvertKit and read my review.
ConvertKit is designed to get more people on your email list and keep ’em there. It’s also able to grow with your business, which will save you time (and headaches) in the future.
Can’t afford some of these premium tools right now? No problem, I’ve got you covered with my Blogging on a Budget Tool List.
Social Media Management
60 percent of my blog traffic comes from Pinterest, so I invest a little more money in my Pinterest marketing.
This all occurs automatically, without me having to lift a finger. Since I started using BoardBooster, Pinterest has become my top traffic source and I’ve tripled the number of Pinterest followers I have.
I use Smarter Queue to schedule posts for Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Smarter Queue has such a clear, simple interface that it took me less than 10 minutes to set up and start adding content to my posting schedule.
My favorite part is that I can categorize my social media posts as “evergreen,” so that Smarter Queue will re-post them without me having to do ANYTHING. This is a huge timesaver, and helps me consistently market my opt-in freebies and blog posts with no extra work.
If you use my link you can try Smarter Queue free for 30 days. They won’t even ask for payment details, so it’s truly free (and hassle free!).
If you take a look at one of my blog posts, you’ll notice the cute social share buttons that match my branding colors and count how many times each post has been shared. These share buttons are from Social Warfare.
I like that the buttons are easy to customize, and that Social Warfare gives me more control about what gets shared. For example, I can pre-select the image that will be pinned whenever someone click on the Pinterest share button. So no more ugly or unrelated, or square pictures on Pinterest!
Design is one of my biggest weak points, but Canva makes it easy (and cheap) for me to create my own graphics. They have premade templates and tons of free photos, icons, shapes, and fonts you can use to make your own images for every social media platform and your blog.
I recently upgraded to Canva for Work because they let you save your branding palette and custom templates, and they have a quick re-size tool so you can instantly create images that are optimized for each social media platform. Upgrading to Canva for Work saves me about 4 hours of work a month, more than worth the $12.95 monthly fee.
Productivity and Time Management
Shameless promo time! This is my free 5-day email course, specifically designed for bloggers and solo business owners like you.
In the course you’ll learn…
- how to banish blogger overwhelm by taking control of your “to do” list
- the three biggest time management mistakes bloggers make, and how to avoid them
- two time management strategies that help pro bloggers create enough time to grow six-figure businesses
- the SINGLE most important ingredient for improving your time management (and which you’re most likely missing!)
Even better? Each lesson takes less than 10 minutes to implement.
A planner is a great tool to help you stay organized and manage your time. I use the Passion Planner because it helps me prioritize and has plenty of space for managing my work and personal commitments.
I also love that it has pages to help you set long-term and short-term goals, and it reminds you to check back in on your goals and track your progress. I’ve spent a lot of time trying various planners, and this has by far been the most useful for me. You can watch this video to take a virtual tour of the Passion Planner, and see how I use it. If you want to buy your own, use the code EMILY10 to save 10%.
To keep my planner organized, I use a different color pen for different types of tasks. For example, I write down appointments using a red pen, work tasks in purple, and personal tasks in green. Color coding tasks helps me see how I’m balancing my time. Plus, the fact that the pens are erasable makes it easy to make changes on the fly while keeping my planner tidy.
Looking for more time management and productivity tools? Download my FREE Time Management Toolkit. It includes 9 essential tools to help you master time management. Plus, most of these tools are free!
When I started blogging, I paid for all my blogging expenses through freelancing. Even though I had been freelancing for nearly 5 years, I took this course and found it incredibly valuable.
Freelancing while you grow your blog is a great productivity strategy. It forces you to prioritize. It prevents blogger burnout. And the money you make from freelancing can help pay for blogging expenses, which takes some pressure off your blog to be instantly profitable.
Plus, many of the skills you already use as a blogger are highly desired in freelancers, so you’re already a step ahead of other freelancers.
In Creative Freelancing Freedom you’ll learn how to:
- Conquer your fear of going freelance
- Increase your revenue month by month by using a specific, results-based marketing strategy
- Find a steady stream of clients
- Blast your conversion rates through the roof (by optimizing your website and your pitches)
After I started growing my email list, I didn’t know what to do with that list. I mean, hypothetically, I knew what to do. I was supposed to email my subscribers, turn them into brand loyalists, and then sell them things.
Well, let me tell you, the process of growing your list, turning them into raving fans, and selling to them is not as simple as it sounds.
Email Lists Simplified helped me figure out EVERYTHING related to email lists. I learned how to make better opt-ins to attract more subscribers. I learned how to get my readers to actually respond to me. I learned how to write a sales funnel to convert readers into buyers. This course really changed everything for me. To see my results and review, check out this blog post.
Find Your Tribe Online is an amazing resource if you’re a) new to blogging or b) an experienced blogger who wants to save time. So, that’s basically all of us.
In this course and ebook you get access to a spreadsheet with links and instructions for joining group boards and Facebook groups in your niche, plus a list of some of the biggest blogs in each niche, in case you want to guest post. After buying Find Your Tribe Online, I was able to join a dozen Facebook groups and close to 20 new group boards in about 30 minutes. It was so worth it to not have to search for all those groups!
I bought the ebook of FYTO, but the course is perfect for new bloggers. It includes scripts, checklists, and video tutorials to help you find your ideal audience and grow your traffic and blog.
This course has been wildly popular in the blog-o-sphere because Michelle, the course creator, makes more than $100,000 a month through affiliate marketing. If you’re going to learn from anyone, learn from the best, right?
Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing has great strategies that work for any niche, and I found the examples and case studies to be especially helpful. My main critique is that the course is all text-based, so if you prefer to learn through video or audio then you’re out of luck.
Bread and Butter Blogging is a comprehensive course is ideal for beginner bloggers or those preparing to launch. Eden covers everything a new blogger needs to know, from tech set-up, to social media marketing, to making money from a blog.
Even seasoned bloggers will find value in the useful tools and strategies that Eden includes. I’ve been blogging for over a year and learned about a new plug-in I need to install, how to do keyword research, and some tricks for changing my wordpress menu.
This is my signature time management course for bloggers and solopreneurs.
If you’ve ever felt like you could reach all of your blogging goals if only you had more time, then this is the perfect course for you.
In Planning for Success, you’ll learn proven time management strategies to help you create the perfect schedule and reach your goals fast. The four course modules will help you clarify your big goal, prioritize your endless to do list, and create the optimal schedule for your busy life.
Blogging on a Budget Tool List